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As part of the fiscal year 2023 New York State Budget, the legislators and Governor Hochul created the Commission to Study Reform of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Law” (the “Commission”). The law assigned certain topics to the Commission and asked that the Commission make recommendations regarding those assigned topics.

Following a series of meetings and votes the Commission made a series of recommendations.  The Commission suggested that the law which requires applicants to give thirty days advance notice to municipalities and community boards served to delay the licensing process. Inasmuch as it takes considerably longer than thirty days for the State Liquor Authority (“SLA”) to review and process an application, the Committee recommended that the notice of application be sent at the same time the application is filed. The SLA can then initiate its review of the application, but not issue a permanent license until at least thirty days have passed. This would give the Community Boards time to provide input, but not delay the process.

The Commission also recommended the temporary permits be available to all new on-premise applicants in New York City. Under the current law, only those premises at which there is or was a prior license within the past two years are eligible. Outside New York City, there is no such limitation.  Moreover, the Commission recommended the elimination of the portions of the law, which require a hearing and a finding of a public interest before an on-premise license can be issued when there are three or more on-premise licenses within five hundred feet of the proposed premise. The Commission also recommended the elimination laws restricting licenses within two hundred feet of a school or place of worship.

Similarly, the Commission recommended the removal of the provisions in the law which forbid the issuance of an all night permit. Currently when New Years’ Eve comes out on a Sunday, the SLA cannot issue the necessary permits to allow the rivalry to continue past 3 am.

Under the current law, most ownership changes must be approved by the New York State Liquor Authority prior to the change. The federal rule and the rule for most states allow the transfer to take place as long as an application is made either at the  time of the transfer or within a short time thereafter. New York’s restrictive rule can hold up a sale for more than six months. The Commission recommended that the law be amended to permit the transfer subject to subsequent SLA approval. The Commission also recommended that package stores be permitted to open at 10 A.M. on Sundays. 

There were also a number of recommendations brought before the Commission which did not receive sufficient support and therefore were not recommended.  The Commission rejected the idea of the state taking over the wholesale and retail distribution of alcoholic beverages. It also rejected allowing wine and ready to drink cocktails to be sold in grocery stores or allowing beer to be sold in package stores.  Although the commission recommended allowing on-premise licensees to purchase a limited amount of wine and spirits from package stores, it rejected the concept of cooperative buying by package stores.

The Commission also could not muster sufficient votes to recommend allowing direct to consumer sales by manufacturers of beer cider wine products or spirits.

The Commission’s full report can be found on the New York State Liquor Authority website at https://sla.ny.gov/system/files/documents/2023/05/abc-law-commission-report-2022-2023.pdf.

However, the recommendations of the Commission are advisory only. Industry members and consumers continue to lobby for and against changes in the law. Time will tell which proposals find favor in the eyes of the legislature and governor.

This article is not intended to give specific legal advice.  Before taking any action, the reader should consult with an attorney familiar with the relevant facts and circumstances.

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